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If dogs could speak and you were to ask them about their favourite time of day, they would most likely tell you breakfast, lunch and dinner. Though our pet pooches are unlikely to refuse the opportunity to eat, their belly may not be in agreement, particularly if they have a sensitive stomach or allergies. What is a dog owner to do in this situation?
Though your veterinarian is the best port of call in such scenarios, you may wish to look into hypoallergenic alternatives of dog food.
Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Hypoallergenic dog food is a useful alternative food choice for dogs who are allergic or have an intolerance to some normal dog foods. Typically free of artificial colours, chemicals or preservatives, hypoallergenic dog food generally contains whole ingredients and is free of other additives that may trigger undesirable reactions in your dog.
How Does Hypoallergenic Dog Food Work?
Hypoallergenic is formulated to mitigate the risk of allergic reactions and food intolerances in your dog. Filled with uncommon ingredients and proteins that aren’t genetically determinable by your dog's immune system as dangerous antigens, minimising the risk of suffering a reaction.
Selective breeding of dogs is thought to have contributed to the increase in food allergies, as dogs with no determinable breed - often referred to as mongrels or mutts - demonstrate a lower probability of having allergies to common dog food ingredients.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Needs Hypoallergenic Foods?
It is relatively simple to determine if your dog has an allergy; usually losing their appetite, excessively scratching, deteriorating coat and skin as well as gastrointestinal problems.
If your dog regularly displays such behaviours or signs, please refer to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
What to do if You Suspect a Food Allergy
When you consult your vet, they will likely inform you that no allergy test can give you a definitive answer as to precisely which allergy your dog has; instead, vets are increasingly prescribing what are known as elimination diets/elimination trials - used to slowly, but consistently, isolate potential allergens. Typically, elimination diets are used to remove commonly used ingredients - such as chicken, beef, milk, soy, corn and wheat - from a dog's eating plan, to determine if unwanted characteristics persist.
Though elimination diets are intended to last approximately three months, you do not have to switch back to traditional commercial dog foods, particularly if your dog enjoys their new meal plan. Often, hypoallergenic dog foods will be more nutritious for the dog in the sense that they may often contain cleaner, higher quality ingredients that are easier to digest.
Why You Should Consider Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
In dogs, much like in humans, allergies can crop up at any time; because of this, switching to hypoallergenic dog food may be beneficial. As they are more expertly formulated and revised to deliver a balanced diet to dogs, whilst carefully attempting to avoid triggering allergies, hypoallergenic foods often contain novel proteins and uncommon flavour varieties.
Hypoallergenic dog foods also have a few other inherent benefits, including:
- Reduce the risk of allergies within your dog
- Increase comfort and reduce distress in your dog
- Minimise serious, long-term health risks commonly associated with allergies
- Save money due to less frequent trips to the veterinarian
Common Food Allergies In Dogs
Food allergies in dogs primarily stem from an incompatibility with a food’s specific protein. Though any time of food or ingredient can cause an allergic reaction in your dog, some ingredients are more likely to, including:
- Chicken eggs
- Wheat (primarily gluten)
Novel Proteins for Dogs
Whenever a dog ingests an ingredient that its body is allergic to, the immune system will release antibodies that cause symptoms typically associated with allergies. As a result, hypoallergenic dog foods - often filled with novel proteins such as venison, duck and insect - are a beneficial feeding protocol to avoid discomfort in your dog.
What are novel proteins? In short, novel proteins are ones which are not typically found in common commercial dog foods so as to avoid potential allergies or upset stomachs. Effectively, if your dog has not yet eaten it, a certain protein source could be determined as a novel protein.
Novel proteins often used in hypoallergenic dog foods include:
3 Must-Try Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
Naturally, if your pooch suffers from food allergies, you would be looking at the very best hypoallergenic dog foods on the UK market. Here are three of the most popular choices for you to look into:
Burgess - Sensitive Dry Dog Food Turkey
Good for dogs with sensitive tummies, this hypoallergenic dog food contains large quantities of lean turkey and rice, as well as beet pulp which is said to reduce the smell of your dog’s air biscuits.
Though the kibble is on the smaller side, Burgess’ food is free of dairy, egg, wheat and soy and it comes in varieties suitable for puppies and adult dogs. In addition to the turkey flavour, you can also try salmon and lamb.
Royal Canin - Veterinary Hypoallergenic Dry Dog Food
On the higher-end of dog foods, Royal Canin dog food is often required to be prescribed by veterinarians to dogs that suffer from skin allergies.
Expertly crafted for pups with incredibly sensitive stomachs, this hypoallergenic food variety uses hydrolysed proteins with low molecular variety to create the desired hypoallergenic effect.
Bug Bakes - Insect-Based Dog Food
Environmentally-friendly, insect-based dog food, such as Bug Bakes, comes in Grain-Free and Regular formulas, composed primarily of lean insect protein and sustainably sourced fruits/vegetables. Approved by vets, these cold pressed foods provide the necessary fibre and muscle-building nutrients to ensure that dogs with grain or protein allergies enjoy a nutritionally-complete diet whilst also doing your bit for the planet.
Containing natural anti-inflammatory properties, such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Chicory Root extract, Bug Bakes’ food is also designed to reduce joint pain, whilst Prebiotic MOS contribute to a healthy gut and digestive tract.
Is Grain-Free the Same as Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Strictly speaking, grain-free dog food is not the same as hypoallergenic dog food. Though grain ingredients are common food allergies in some dogs, grain-free food may still use other common ingredients linked with allergies, such as chicken or corn.
Though grain-free dog food may reduce the risk of a food allergy, they should not be considered entirely hypoallergenic.
Food Allergy or Intolerance?
Though it can often be difficult to tell the difference between each, remember that an allergy is the immune system reacting negatively to the introduction of a food item to the body. Never ignore what you believe to be a food allergy, as it could be fatal.
On the other hand, an intolerance is when your dog will have difficulty in processing and digesting certain foods - typically not life-threatening, they should still not be ignored as they could severely impact the quality of life of your dog.
Is hypoallergenic dog food the same as grain-free?
Grain-free food is typically just that - free from grains. However, not all grain-free foods will be hypoallergenic - often using ingredients such as beef, chicken and dairy - whereas not all hypoallergenic foods will be free from grain. Always read the label and consult a veterinarian.
What is the meaning of hypoallergenic dog food?
Generally, hypoallergenic dog foods are free from common allergens and contain simpler components and novel, wholesome and natural ingredients.